December 28, 2012

Vinny shakes a tail feather

Normally a Vosmaeri Eclectus has 12 tail feathers. Vinny is down to 3. That is three. That's right. Luckily, they'll grow back, and that should happen over the next half year or so, while he's going through his first major molt. He's just about 1 year old now, so if you know your Eclectus, you know what I'm talking about.

Clear view of 2 snapped tail feathers after yet another typical
Vinny-stunt. Vinny is quite wet here, just having had a shower.
Moments later, we freed him of his broken off feathers.
It's actually pitiful (read: funny) to watch, he truly looks like a handicapped bird, but in a funny way, like a pirate with a peg leg. Even though he can still fly quite nicely with just 3 tail feathers, you can tell that his maneuvering is a bit wonky. He sways a bit left and right now, and if there was something like a parrot police, he would be pulled over for drunk flying for sure.

I may have said it before: Vinny is a true stuntman from time to time, mean that he often climbs in and on his cage in ways we never thought was possible, uses his swing like a real trapeze artist, and so forth. He sometimes gets himself in trouble and has to make emergency landings. During the first 8 months or so we've had him, he's lost a few tail feathers doing just that.

left: broken off baby tail feather
middle: shedded stump of broken off tail feather
right: naturally shed flight feather
Recently, we've been on vacation and we put Vinny in a Pet Hotel at a bird-expert vet about half an hour drive away. 17 Days later he came back with yet 2 tail feathers lost. This was probably due to pacing around a very small cage. This is normally his sleeping cage. We have it in the darkest room in the house, to make sure Vinny get's at least 12 hours of rest every day. Of course the cage is still big enough for him to spread his wings at least, but other than that, it's not intended for him to stay in it for a longer period of time.

At the vet, we had no other option, because this is the only cage that will fit in our car. So he lost a few more. No big deal. But after we came back from vacation, Vinny seemed to be more fond of that cage, I guess he saw that as his comfort zone. So we let him stay in there more than normal. He even went in there by himself when we were around. And that caused him to lose 2 more, the day after we came home from vacation.

So three it is. No biggie. Not a problem. They'll grow back. Of course, because of this, we've been looking for signs of his first big molt, and last week our patience was rewarded. Two days in a row, we found two flight feathers (for those who don't know: the big long feathers on his wing) in his cage, perfectly intact as they're supposed to be.

And yesterday we found one of his stumps of a broken off tail feather as well, with a nice and intact base, a clear sign of a naturally shed feather. Perfect, perfect, perfect! He's  right on schedule and within half a year, he should have most or all of his tail feathers back.

The thing with tail feathers, and we've read this on various parrot and Eclectus expert websites, is that the first feathers a bird has, are more flexible, but at that also weaker than his adult feathers. The reason for this is that nature has figured out that baby birds are more reckless and are more prone to feather-breaking than adult birds. Makes sense, right? Imagine chicks ruffling around in a small nest, or kids doing all kinds of stunts that are actually very helpful in getting in touch with their agility and dexterity. If everything we've read is correct, he should grow back stronger feathers.

New pin feather on his left wing
And then this morning, to top it all off, we noticed two very nice pin feathers on his wings, one on each side, in the same spot. Those must be the replacements for the flight feathers he shed last week.

Remember, this is all new to us. If you're a weathered parrot-owner, you must probably be laughing at this! And if you have no interest in parrots whatsoever, you must probably be asking yourself what the big deal is.

Vinny is nowhere close to a human kid of course, but just imagine your own kid missing almost all of his front baby teeth, and then noticing the signs of his adult teeth breaking through. That's why we deem this a Kodak moment and write about it, for your pleasure!

Do you have an Eclectus or any other kind of parrot, and you have funny stories about their first molt? Please do share, that's what comments are for.

More coming up about Vinny's adventures as a young Eclectus finding his way on this great chunk of dirt we call Earth. He's about to see the big Oh-One, so time to sum up a year of new experiences, for both Vinny and his 'parronts'.

Souvenirs for Vinny!

For Turkey Day, my girlfriend and I went to visit her family in the USA. Vinny stayed with the vet for those 17 days. Our bird-expert vet has a boarding arrangement as well. See our separate post about that.

Usually when we visit the States, we do lots of shopping, clothing in particular. Everything is much cheaper there so we save a ton of money. This was our first trip since we have Vinny, so we figured it was time to do some Vinny-shopping as well. Time to get souvenirs.

Now, most souvenirs we had on our shopping list included materials to create toys ourselves. Raw leather (not chemically treated) is hard to find here, including stainless steel clasps, rings and parts, at least at a reasonable price.

Halfway through our vacation, we hadn't gotten anything for Vinny yet, except for 2 colorful cardboard pinatas, from a chain pet store. Much cheaper than here in the Netherlands, but not what we were looking for. So we did some googling and this is how it came to be that we found THE PERFECT STORE !!

Why in capitals, why so sure about that? If you're ever in the States, or if you live there, you should really (and I can't emphasize this enough) check out the store we found.

It was an hour drive for us, from where my girlfriend's mother lives (Allentown, PA) to a town called Burlington, in the wonderful state of New Jersey. This is where we found Bird Paradise, and that was exactly what it looked like to us!

Bird Paradise, front/road view of the store
 They call themselves 'World's Largest Bird Store' and we've visited a few that called themselves that, but this particular one is definitely worthy of that title. One experience we will never forget. Let me describe how we experienced this store.

So, you come to this store, with a parking lot suitable for maybe 60-70 cars, and a reasonably sized building. One floor. And all around the parking lot are 2nd hand cages lined up, with price tags on them. The building obviously screams that they're some kind of parrot store, but once you get inside, the first thing you notice is a corridor with bird toys on either side. This was already more than we saw in any Dutch pet store. Then, about 15 feet in, a sign and spray bottles with hand sanitizer. A good sign! They take hygiene seriously and that's always nice to see.

Then we turned right, and came into a room with stuff for wild birds. We were put off a bit. We figured, so half the store is gonna be like this? Not what we're looking for. But we pushed on, took another turn and came into another room, and another turn and into the the main room, where the front desk and register were. More walls filled with toys. More stands, also filled with toys. More of everything, except for the wild bird crap. Who's interested in that? Not us, so we were happy that that was only in one room apparently.

In the main room, they had a bunch of large stands with tame parrots sitting on them, amongst other birds, at least a couple of very friendly Eclectus and an adult Macaw that truly was the sweetest of all.

Walls and walls full of toys
Then we took another turn, and all of a sudden it dawned on us! We had arrived in Bird Toy Heaven! We looked down this isle, which gradually sloped down into a basement of sorts, and looked down a path crossing at least 4 (four!) more rooms, exactly like the ones we walked through.

Floor to wall, narrow paths in between stands, all filled with nothing but parrot toys, parrot toy parts, parrot stands, parrot EVERYTHING! You name it, we saw it there.

All in all we walked through about 8 rooms, all like that, with no exception. And at the end of it all, we went into the large rooms (plural) with the live parrots! More 'oh-my-goodness' !! Big cages, open sections with hundreds of parrots of all sorts! Even one with about 20 Caiques, all housed together, playful and clown-like as they always are .. while we had trouble finding those here in the Netherlands!

The pictures in this post don't do the right amount of justice to this store. We felt truly humble here. If you live far away, but if you ever get a chance, make sure you visit this place!

Sign in the store, hanging just a bit too low?
A few hours later, after the friendly lady at the desk had tallied up the US$ 212 we spent (and that was after putting back some stuff, because it was too much to take home), we walked back to the car and drove off silently, still impressed. It was 10 minutes later when the first thing we said was: good thing we don't live around here! We'd be broke by now, just because of this store!

Back at home, we still have a big red suitcase sitting in our living room. It is the one with all the toys and Vinny stuff. And whenever Vinny is around and we come near the suitcase, he goes on high alert! He stretches his neck, he looks at the suitcase, he knows that all those colorful things in there are his. We even caught him red-clawed a few times, trying to get into the suitcase, while we were just looking away for a moment. Sneaky bird!

But he can't have it all in one go, This new collection of toys is supposed to last us at least a year, so whenever it's time for a new toy, we let him ruffle through the suitcase and whatever he picks out, he gets, before the suitcase closes again till next time.

Vinny picking a toy from the red suitcase

Information about the store:
Name: Bird Paradise
Webshop: (they ship internationally)
Address: 551 E Rt 130 South, Burlington, NJ, USA

No, we don't own shares of this store, nor are we in any way affiliated, except for the fact that we became instant fans of Bird Paradise during our visit. Next time we're in the States, we definitely clear a day in our schedule (and a sizable chunk out of our budget) to visit this store!

December 27, 2012

Vinny's Vacation at the Vet

Since my girlfriend (Vinny's mommy) is American, we went on vacation to the USA, visiting family for Thanksgiving. I'm a big fan of her family (love ya all!), but another great reason for me was to go for all the foods that we don't really have here in the Netherlands, including the all famous Thanksgiving Turkey. We had Grilled, Baked and Deep-fried and it was GOOD!

Obviously, it seems a bit weird to talk about eating birds, while this blog IS about a (pet) bird. However, I can see Vinny imitate the gobble-gobble of a turkey, but I don't see a turkey greet us and laugh at/with us and say Coca Cola, and sit on my shoulder watching tv with us. That's the difference and that's nature.

Before we got Vinny, we did our research on boarding for Vinny, since obviously you can't take anything with feathers from Europe to the States. And even if it was possible, having to buy a full ticket for a bird that weighs around 420 grams (almost 15 ounces), seems a bit excessive.

So we chose to give Vinny another safe home for the 17 days that we were gone. Surprisingly, the solution was only half an hour drive away, and cost a mere 5 euros per day. Very reasonable price, compared to bird-boarding in the USA, or for cats/dogs anywhere. And it is at the local bird-expert vet.

The Vet: Dierenziekenhuis & hotel Drachten. Photo source:

This was truly a test for us. We've only had him for 8 months, but we've never left him behind for more than half a day, let alone with strangers. We weren't afraid that anything was going to happen to our boy, just that he might scream all day, cause a few bite wounds here and there or be a holy hell terror for the 2 weeks. Obviously, if that would happen, we'd be extra anxious to bring him there next time, or leave him behind anywhere, for that matter.

We prepped everything. We had 17 days of his special bean mix, a baggie of pellets, some fresh fruit, a handful of toys and a short document with some basic instructions. Okay, we may have gone a bit overboard with that last one. It was 2 pages describing his feeding pattern, his general behavior, his vocabulary and emergency contact information. They probably had a few giggles over that, but we didn't care.

Charlie & Darwin
We left him behind. We said our goodbyes. We closed the door. What was done, was done. No turning back now. Next day, we were on a plane across an ocean and left our buddy for life behind with strangers.

During our stay in the States, especially the first few days, we joked about calling in to see how he was doing. I had to put my foot down several times to prevent my girlfriend from calling. Especially with the 2 page manifest on Vinny-care, I didn't want to seem like the typical over-concerned parent.

Just for your information: the budgie-duo Charlie and Darwin were housed at my parents for a total of 3 weeks and of course they were treated like royalty with fresh fruits and veggies every day and lots and lots of attention, including from my niece and nephew who were over almost every day to say hi to them. They even had a room with a view!

Then, it was time. We came back home on a Monday morning, and went to pick up Vinny that same afternoon.

Immediately after checking in at the vet's front desk, we heard that everything went great and it turned out that everyone of the vet's staff loved Vinny. They took him out of the cage to fly around a bit, he had a lot of company, he was the sweetest bird ever, didn't bite, didn't growl, didn't scream ... a true model bird! No signs of his earlier biting stage he went through, no signs of upcoming puberty, no signs of general bad behavior whatsoever.

As you can imagine, we were very relieved! We raised Vinny well, so far. And now we feel confident that whenever we do want or need to go travelling, we can easily leave our pet behind.

Vinny after he took a shower back at home
And of course Vinny was very happy to see us as well. It took mere seconds for him to recognize us, and to welcome us back in his life with the usual chatter and other cute sounds. I swear I recognized a huge smile on his candy-corn beak. Thank you to the whole staff of Dierenziekenhuis Drachten and to my parents for taking such good care of our winged ones!

Passed, with flying colors!

Do you have any experiences with boarding your bird, any stories that stick out? Good or bad? Feel free to let us know by commenting!

The pictures of the birds are ours (also the grilled one). Other picture courtesy of Dierenziekenhuis Drachten (the vet, from their excellent website).

August 25, 2012

Vinny the Inventor

Vinny definitely watches too much tv. Please let me explain that.

Sometimes when we're doing chores around the house, or we're in the office upstairs for a little while and Vinny's too rambunctious for his own good, we leave him by himself in the big cage in the living room. He's totally fine there. Lots of toys to play with, a bit of snacky food (usually a tomato or just some pellets), fresh water, what does a young Eclectus want more?

Sometimes we leave the TV on. He'll start talking and will keep doing that for at least an hour. He loves loud noise, including but not limited to applause, explosions and thunderstorms. We usually let him watch anything like that, as long as it's PG. We don't want to turn him in to a cursing bird.

Last weekend, we had a moment like that, where we just wanted some rest. We let him be by himself downstairs. However, what we didn't realize, was that he was watching stuff he wasn't supposed to watch. When we came down later to get him, he was watching reruns of MacGyver. Sure, it's PG and of course he loves it. He was babbling a lot and we were wondering what he was saying. But of course that was futile, since the only few words he says that we can understand, is Coca Cola, Hello, Good Boy, Shower and Wockawocka.

Anyway, getting sidetracked here. The thing is ... we didn't realize how dangerous it was to let him watch MacGyver, until a few days ago. My girlfriend was working on her computer and Vinny was exploring the room. Nothing extraordinary. When I go to work in the morning, I usually throw a towel over my desk, otherwise I'll find the keys of my keyboard scattered all over the room, and Vinny also loves the rubber mouse wheel. So at some point she looks over, and sees Vinny experimenting with a few things. 

tools of the trade
On the towel, he had gathered a small coil of network cable, my World of Warcraft authenticator, and a pack of gum. Was he planning his escape? Does he have a secret plan to rule the world? Is he becoming a Prepper?

Either way, of course she had to laugh so hard and me as well, when I came home and she told me about this. It took a little while till we linked this to MacGyver. Of course there were no WoW-authenticators back in the days when MacGyver originallly was on TV, but that only shows how intelligent Vinny is. At least, he's coming up with his own inventions!

Or at least, that's what we like to think. 

basket with foot-toys
However, there's a truth to all of this. We do really believe that Vinny is trying to grasp the concept of tools. In the office, on a dedicated Vinny table, we have this basket with most of his 'foot-toys'. And on occasion, we do catch him trying to combine those toys into one big toy. An example of this is an old decommissioned creditcard he's putting into a little box. Of course, like for most inventors, it also comes with failure, and in those cases he usually just goes into tantrum mode for a few minutes, with him getting angry at the toys and throwing them out of the basket. 

Do you have any similar experiences with your Eclectus or other parrot? Feel free to share them in the comments! Would love to hear them.

June 17, 2012

Vinny the Babbling Bird

Just for the fun of it, we've created a short video of Vinny. This video contains various footage in the form of random photos and some videos.

We basically created this video to make it easy to share the audio with you. The narration is completely done by Vinny. These are the typical sounds he makes when he's in a mood for it. We haven't been able to record his attempts to speak yet, but as soon as we do, we'll let you know!

This video is posted on Youtube. Click HERE for Vinny's own video channel.

Take care, and have fun!

Good Eats for Vinny!

For us, as first time parrot owners, figuring out the food has been an experiment. We've fed him just about any type of food we've been recommended. All kinds of fruits and veggies, the right pellets (no additives and only with natural coloring), the right seeds, beans and peas, and so forth.

For about 2 to 3 months now, he's been off the Nutribird formula and he's doing great. One night, about a month after his last formula feeding, he was on a rant around dinner time and wouldn't eat his bean mixture. So we tried to feed him the formula again, but after 2 spoons, he flung it all around the room and went back to his old 'new' food. And that was that.

We've gotten into the habit of making his food once per month, bag it up in small batches, and put it in the freezer. On a daily basis, he gets one of those batches, additional fruits and/or vegetables, and a small handful of seeds or nuts.

The most important ingredients for this special Vinny-mix are: wheat pasta, barley, rolled oats, couscous, yam, pumpkin, mango, brown rice, chick peas, green peas, mung beans, black-eyed peas, adzuki beans and lentils. We boil it in separate batches and put stuff together according to boiling times. After cooling, we mix everything up in a huge bowl and put a good spoon full (half a cup) in each freezer bag. We've also experimented with putting in some veggies like broccoli, but stuff like that doesn't thaw out well.

In the morning, he gets a healthy seed/grain mix (again: no added vitamins/minerals), around dinner time he gets the mix and in the evening it's usually snack time. His absolute favorite snacks are red grapes, corn-on-the-cob, and pumpkin. That last one, we sometimes buy at the farmer's market.

He also loves almonds or sunflower seeds, but we usually only give him those when we train him. We do stimulate him by making him open the container himself, or hide it inside a toy.

If you have an Eclectus yourself (or maybe more than one), feel free to comment and let us know what you're feeding your 'child'. If you don't have any Eclecti (maybe this is it?), feel free to skip the technicalities above. Oops, too late! At least I hope you're enjoying the pictures in this post!

Take care and Bon Apetit!

Vinny turns five and a half!

I know, I know, it's been a while. But here's an update about the wonderful life of Vinny the Eclectus!

Vinny is five and a half months old now. He's definitely a fantastic bird, but still a child in all respects. He likes cuddling when we watch tv, he's trying out what our limits are, he's playful, he's a true Explorer and he loves getting attention from us, but also from Charlie and Darwin, our Bubblehead-Budgies.

He rarely screams. Only in those cases where he desperately feels he needs our attention (i.e. when he's hungry or when he gets overexcited). Other than that, he's mumbling a lot and is starting to talk a little bit. So far, we've heard him try to say 'Always Coca Cola', although not very successful yet (something I'm trying to teach him). He is getting better at 'Ello', 'Owah' (which we guess means 'Shower') and 'Wocka Wocka' though. That last one is always followed by typical Eclectus-giggle, probably also an imitation of us, because we usually laugh our asses off whenever he gets it right.

From what we've read so far, this is the age at which Eclectusses (is that the correct plural?) can start to get nippy. And I have to say, our sources are at least partly correct so far. Set aside the playful bites (not hurting in any way) and the grabbing hold of a finger while stepping up, he is starting to bite a little bit. It only happens when he's testing us out and tries to gain some dominance (and if we don't give him that pleasure), or when he gets a bit overexcited when he's in a playful mood.

Of course we usually respond by pushing back instead of pulling away, and that definitely keeps it under control. We're convinced it's only a phase he's going through, like any other child.

Don't get me wrong, 99% of the time he's on his best behavior, so we must be doing something right in his upbringing. And the breeder, who had him for the first 2.5 months, must have done a great job as well. Or maybe it's just in his genes. That one percent of time when he tries to test us out, we usually laugh it off and manage to change his mood rapidly.

Last night, we had a friend over. He hadn't met Vinny yet and he was very cool with our little one. Vinny was a bit reluctant at first, but we can already tell that Vinny is and will be a very social bird. Within minutes, Vinny felt very comfortable being around our guest and was already showing off his new vocal capabilities a bit.

Take care and see you in the next update!

May 15, 2012

From Baby-Vinny To Big-Bird-Vinny

It's so funny that it seems such a long time ago that Vinny became part of our lives. The days (back in December) that we were excited because there was an egg with our name on it feels like ages ago. And yet ... we're still very much starter-parronts (parrot parents). Every day we learn something new about Vinny, and of course we try to shape Vinny's youth as well, by letting him experience as many new things as possible.

Today we received a very kind email from Jessika (the breeder where we got Vinny). Vinny's parents are doing very well and are actually sitting on eggs again (about to hatch this weekend). Jessika is fantastic and we are very very happy that we found her. Kudos to Jessika! We'll keep in touch for sure.

Anyway, this sudden spur of sentiment also reminded me of a quick blog post I had in mind for a while already. So here we go ... a quick history of Vinny, in pictures:

Vinny and his sister, 2 weeks old
(photo courtesy of Jessika Timmer)

Vinny with green pin feathers and got his ring now, 4 weeks old
(photo courtesy of Jessika Timmer)

Vinny on the day he left the nest, 6 weeks old

Vinny at the vet, getting checked & chipped, 9 weeks old
(photo courtesy of Jessika Timmer)

Vinny getting picture taken for passport, 3 months old

Vinny out in the park with us, 4 months old (2 weeks ago)

April 30, 2012

Leash & Leisure for Vinny

Today is Queen's Day in the Netherlands, an official holiday that brings fun for all ages. And today is also the first day of actual nice weather. A comfortable 75 Fahrenheit (over 20 Celsius), nice sun, light breeze, couldn't be better and what a coincidence that we got this today! Actually felt like spring and we even got a little sunburn.

Even better, because this morning we went out to the 'Vrijmarkt' here in Groningen, which is basically a big open free flea market in the streets. We got lots of new cheap toys for Vinny at an average of 60 cents a piece. Vinny will be so happy!

Since the weather was so nice, we decided to do a nice picnic in the neighborhood park and give the Aviator a run for its money. The Aviator is basically a harness on a leash especially developed for parrots. They come in various sizes for different types of parrots and it's very well designed and made. Based on this alone, we think it's an excellent product. We bought it online from Avonturia, a store in the Hague, the Netherlands.

So we went out on our bikes (only a few minute ride), Vinny in a carrier and already in the Aviator harness. You have to understand that, aside from twice in the back yard, this was Vinny's first day out! Since the weather has been bad over the last few months, we didn't really get the chance to try this before, but today was definitely the day.

Here's a little tip, in case you are considering getting the Aviator, or already bought it: watch the instructional DVD that comes with it, and/or read the manual. IT people use the term RTFM (Read The Fricking Manual) regularly. Well, it definitely applies here as well. When you go through the whole loop of getting your parrot used to it gradually (like we did), you will be rewarded! It'll be easy to get the Aviator on and off your parrot, especially if your parrot is used to being touched on the head, back and wings.

Vinny was perfectly fine on the way over in his specially prepped carrier, he even made some cute sounds. Oh yeah, about the carrier: We use your basic plastic cat-carrier, but put a (natural) perch in, leaving some room at the bottom to slide a sheet of paper in.

Anyway, when we arrived in the park, we set out our blanket in the shade and unleashed the beast. He was somewhat anxious at first, but soon got used to being outside, to the big sea gulls flying over, and crows shooting through the canopy. He got settled in for sure when he got some food as well, although he wasn't too sure about hopping through the grass or even our blanket. He did seem to want to sit on our shoulders more than normal (I guess it is his safe spot).

The Aviator did its work perfectly. He flew off a few times, but got gently pulled by the elastic cord and was able to stay in the air, doing a few circles before landing softly on our hands or on the ground. At least it made him more comfortable with the grass and at some point he even rolled around in it 'for funzies'!

We even did some starter recall training and we found out that praise is a very good motivational thing for Vinny's training. Works even better than treats. What a perfect bird!

We did figure out one drawback of the Aviator though. Vinny was picking on the harness a lot. Of course this was a first time that he was wearing it for more than 5 minutes, but he didn't seem to be able to get comfortable wearing it. At some point he even loosened it up himself by pulling the strap from the clasp! Not just a perfect bird, also a very clever bird! We did double check if we put it on correctly, of course, but maybe we still got it twisted or something. Hopefully next time he'll be better about it (or we, for that matter).

All in all we had lots of fun, and so did Vinny. After getting back, he flew to the top of his cage and fell asleep in a matter of minutes.

Do you ever take your parrot out? Do you use some kind of harness or is your bird perfectly trained to fly back to you when you call him/her? What are your experiences with the Aviator or similar products?

New toys for Vinny

Today it's Queen's Day in the Netherlands. April 30th, like every year. Official holiday, celebrations and parties everywhere. Part of the Queen's Day tradition is the 'Vrijmarkt', which literally translates to 'Free Market'. This basically means that anyone can lay out a blanket in the street (designated locations) and put old stuff up for sale. You'll see all kinds of stuff: pots & pans, clothes, weird antiques from the attic, complete collections of whatever people want to get rid of...

Lots of toys to be found that are safe for parrots
One of the things that you will frequently find, is toys. Lots and lots of toys that kids have grown out of. And that's why we went on our own scavenger hunt today at the 'Vrijmarkt' in Groningen City.

Cool people, weird stuff
The things we've been specifically looking for, are small colorful plastic toys that are Eclectus-resistant. No rubber parts that he can chew off, no small parts that can come off, you get the idea. Then of course we were also keeping an eye on safety. No metal parts (unless it's stainless steel), no sharp edges, no toxic paints, no unknown types of wood ... again, you get my drift.

The one thing that we've found quite a number of times, are small plastic 'Fisher Price' type key rings, little spoons and cute things like that. We also found a perfect basket for Vinny to sit on that can hold his toys, so he can pick out one to play with. On the side, we also found a few Coca Cola collector's items that are for the other big kid (me).

More weird stuff
Overall we got about 15 to 20 toys for an average of 60 cents a piece. Once run through the dishwasher (if it won't survive the dishwasher, it deserves to be tossed anyway), they're good to go and we'll give Vinny the first batch. See, what we're trying to do, is not give them all at the same time, but spread them out, no more than 4 or 5 at the same time. We've discovered that Vinny gets bored of a toy in about a week, and to keep him stimulated, we need to do some kind of rotation system for his toys.

So, if you're in or anywhere near the Netherlands next year on April 30th (and the night before), make sure you read up on the Vrijmarkt and other events going on. You'll have a blast, for sure! And you'll be able to find good toys for your parrot. Other flea markets and yard sales might also be a good place to look for cheap toys to buy in bulk. Tip of the day!

Where do you get your parrot toys and what do you spend on those per year?

Our loot for the day

General impression of a Dutch Queen's Day's flea market

Be amazed at the stuff people collect over time

April 29, 2012

13 Questions for Vinny

You all know them from elementary school or high school. Lists of questions to get to know someone. We asked Vinny the following 13 questions:

1. What is your favorite color?
Vinny: Green of course

2. What is your favorite food?
Vinny: Corn on the cob!

3. Who is your favorite politician?
Vinny: What is that? Can I eat that?

4. What is your favorite movie?
Vinny: Rio!

5. Who is your favorite musician?
Vinny: I currently listen to lots of music. Doesn't matter, as long as it has soul. And I like ukulele music as well.

6. What is your favorite proverb?
Vinny: "A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song". I believe it's a Chinese proverb.

7. What is your favorite season?
Vinny: I was born on January 1st of this year. All I know is winter and I have gotten to know spring a bit as well. I like both of them!

8. What is your favorite book?
Vinny: Any book I can take apart.

9. What is your favorite sport?
Vinny: Gymnastics. My cage is one big gym and I like to exercise!

10. What is your favorite website?
Vinny: My blog of course!

11. What is your favorite smell?
Vinny: Nothing beats the smell of fresh corn in the morning!

12. Who is your favorite superhero?
Vinny: That has to be The Green Flash!

And last but not least:
13. What is your favorite pastime?
Vinny: playing with my toys, eating corn, teasing the budgies, flying, snuggling with my parronts, making funny sounds .. should I go on?

Vinny, thank you very much for your cooperation. If we have more questions, we'll definitely get back to you. In the meantime, if readers have more questions, they can put them in the comments (or tweet to @vinnythebird) and Vinny will be answering them asap.

Nine Steps To Happy Hygiene

I'm an evening person. I don't wake up well in the morning and I usually have trouble waking up. Two alarm clocks is the minimum (strategically placed out of reach) and I snooze about 5 times on average.

Here's the morning routine that follows:
Step 1: Final snooze. I'm awake just enough to realize that I have to turn it off and sit up
Step 2: Getting out of the bedroom with some bare essentials, so my girlfriend can continue to sleep a bit more, if she doesn't need to get up. Primarily my glasses and my phone, that is.
Step 3: Find my way to the bathroom for my usual 'first order of business'
Step 4: Find my way to the office while waking up a bit more
Step 5: Sit at computer, check email, news and blogs for 10 minutes
Step 6: Getting mentally ready to continue the morning routine and get ready to leave for work
Step 7: Find clothes and a towel
Step 8: Take my morning shower. Getting reminded of something by a loud squeeky noise.
Step 9: Forgot the bird. Go back and get him.

Yes, I take my morning showers together with Vinny. I don't have any trouble with him seeing me naked, as long as he doesn't say stuff like 'Size Matters'. After all, I do see him naked all the time.

The first few times we took him to the shower, he was reluctantly undergoing the whole process. Since then, we've managed to figure out a few tricks that make it a bit more fun for him and now he likes taking showers very much and is definitely a happy bird when he comes out, soaking wet.

Usually he sits on the shower curtain rail while I shave and wash my hair. He usually makes a few soft scratchy sounds during these few minutes, to let me know that I shouldn't forget about him. Then I turn down the temperature a bit, to a comfortable 30 degrees Celsius (about 85 Fahrenheit). I turn down the power of the water a bit, let him step up on my hand, and get him soaked. Wash off any dirt that might stick to his feathers, and let him drink some water. He likes catching a tiny stream of water with his beak that comes from the shower head.

During the next phase, I let him sit on the curtain rail again while I finish showering myself. This is when he's starting to get playful a little bit. He makes funny noises (sometimes) and plays with the toys that hang from the rail.

By this time, we're in the bathroom for over 15 minutes. I used to take 5-10 minute showers, now I have to reserve almost half an hour for the whole process. But it's all fine and dandy, it's a fun ritual.

When the formal part of the showering is done, that is, the actual cleaning, it's play time !!

I set the shower head to the misty power spray setting, take Vinny on my hand, and give him a good steam bath from all sides. He sneezes a bit when he gets a few drops in his nose, but other than that, he's visibly enjoying it. Once in a while he's so happy that he actually spreads his wings and takes in the water as much as he can.

At some point enough is enough. I'll be in a hurry to make sure I'm not late for work, and Vinny is letting me know that he's starting to get hungry. So we get out, I place him on the top perch of the cage and give him some food. As soon as we leave the bathroom, he starts shivering. Well, actually, it's not shivering. His chest muscles contract rapidly, which is a bird's way of creating extra heat to to dry off the feathers faster.

Before leaving, I check his cage and put some clean paper in the bottom tray. I open the blinds to a little crack to give him some daylight, and leave him in the trusty hands of my girlfriend.

Do you and your parrot have similar routines, or do you take a completely different approach? Feel free to let us know by commenting.

April 21, 2012

Wanna play, boy?

In the previous posts I already mentioned a bunch of recognizable moods, at least so far. There's sleepy, hungry, quiet, playful, vocal and nosy. In that post, we went into the nosy a bit.

I guess we can add angry/upset to that list as well, but more about that later.

So what is Vinny like when he's playful?

Well, to be honest, this can mean a bunch of things. Basically it means that he's into everything. It can be anything in his toy basket, but could easily also be his play stand or swing, our couch, the food cup, you name it.

In our office, we have 2 desks set up, with a table in the middle and an Ikea Expedit 2x2 up against the wall. On top of that, there's a small play stand which he loves. It's high enough up so that he has the feeling of it being his 'throne' (good view of both of us and the rest of his room), plus it's where he gets playful.

We did this by getting a wooden tray at a dollar store that's easy to clean. Then we got 2 wooden ladders from a pet store, screwed them to the tray, screwed 2 sticks of natural wood to the top like perches, and there you go. Of course we used stainless steel screws/washers (not zinc or galvanized, since it's poisonous). And for natural wood we used de-barked willow. Took about 15 minutes to make. It's actually inspired by a similar play stand we made for the budgies (see 2nd picture, with the 2 ladders sideways on top).

He loves it! He climbs around on it, he hangs from it with one foot while grooming himself, he picks at the wood a bit, but mostly he just realizes he can be himself there. Actually, he's not just playful there, he can have any type of mood up there. Sitting quietly, observing everything we do or singing along with Youtubes that we play for him. Then of course sometimes he throws in some drama when he's grabbing hold, flapping his wings as if he wants to take off with the whole thing and growling.

Playing seems to come in two flavors for Vinny. Either he's in the aggressive 'attack the toy' mode, or he's just rolling any type of toy around in his beak, trying to take it apart. We asked the family in the USA send over a bunch of discarded baby toys and selected a bunch that were bird-safe. There's a few that he really really loves, including the yellow-green-orange (his 'fav' colors!) monkey-ring-thingy. He'll be happy just laying on his back, and picking at it.

Then there's the aggressive playing as well, where I think he's pretending it to be some sort of enemy. This is where we're on guard because we've had a few occasions where we thought it would be fun to join the 'fight' playfully but discovered that that's probably why our hands now look pretty banged up lately.

Another example of how to keep a parrot entertained for quite a while:
Go to your local hardware or DIY store, get a few yards of plastic chain, hang it from the ceiling or make a swing out of it (just use tie-wraps to put it together). And there you go!

We'll be making a lot more toys for Vinny and we'll definitely keep you informed! Just remember: 'Playful' is one of the better moods for any parrot to be in, and making toys or designated places to play is just so easy.

Till next time!

April 15, 2012

Nosy bird!

We've had Vinny for a month now, and we can distinguish Vinny's various moods. There's sleepy, hungry, playful, quiet, vocal and nosy. Well, that's so far. Sometimes we're able to help him get into another mood, if our moods don't match Vinny's and if we need him to quiet down or if we have time to play with him.

Vocal is the most fun for us, at the moment. Every time he gets giggles and laughs from us when he's making all the cute sounds and is mumbling along with music (he likes 60s and 70s the most so far). When he's playful, he sometimes growls in a funny way, at his toys, at the perch, and once in a while we think he has an imaginary friend.

And then there's nosy. Or maybe curious is a better word. At those time's he's just into everything. And by that, I mean everything! If he's in this mood, the term 'attention span' is not in his vocabulary.

He's active, won't sit still, plays on his jungle jim, but also wants a taste of everything that he can find. Whether it's a mouse cord, a pen, a cap from a soda bottle, it really doesn't matter. We sit upstairs in our office a lot, so this is the place where he has most of his toys. He also has a few stands and swings here. Downstairs is his big cage, but in the office is where he sleeps, in a smaller cage.

This cage sits by the window (can be 100% blinded if we need darkness for Vinny), and there's also our solution for when he's curious. We just put him on top of the cage, right with his nose touching the window. He can just look outside and will sit there happily for quite a while. He'll growl, make funny sounds, or just look at the birds outside, cars and buses driving past, and so forth.

Last week it was sunny outside and we took a few snapshots of him, when he was in the nosy mood. He was staring outside and I could swear he was saying 'bus', when he saw a moped racing by. Of course, that could have just been my imagination.

We'll go into Vinny's various moods and how to swing those moods in another post. In the meantime, here are a few pictures of Vinny, on top of his cage, looking outside.

Vinny goes social!

Vinny isn't very skilled at the computer. As you can see, he did have a go at it (especially the scroll-wheel of my mouse). Had to get a new one, but it was time for that anyway. My 'punishment' for not paying attention for a few seconds.

We'll go into what we sometimes call 'Vinny karma' later.

Anyway, the point of this is that my girlfriend and I see ourselves as Vinny's 'publicists'. We post on his behalf, so to speak. Why? Well, as we said in the welcome post, we think that the info we've gathered so far  might help people who just got a young parrot themselves (even though we hardly call ourselves experts). And hopefully it's a nice read at the same time.

At the moment, Vinny is working his way through a mini-pumpkin filled with more fruity goodies and looking at me with those big cute googly eyes, and I can see him thinking: "Hey you, keep concentrating on that blog! And why haven't you tweeted yet today? What the hell am I paying you for? Oh, and don't forget, I'll be asking for more food later and demand some attention. Just so you know! And I might poop on you or wipe my pumpkin-beak on your shirt".

Yes, we love him anyway.

We have our own social media channels like Twitter, Google+ and YouTube, so we figured it might be fun for Vinny to have his own ways of communicating with the world through the internet. For the last few weeks, we've been doing that in those various ways, but as of now, we're concentrating everything around the centerpiece of it all, and you're reading it right now.

So, since this blog is now the epicenter of Vinny's online presence, from here it's easy to find your way to his other social media channels.


Before writing this blog, from the moment that Vinny moved in with us, we kept a diary on a Dutch forum for parrot owners. Feel free to visit this one as well and read up. Don't forget to go to the other pages as well. Four pages so far.

Diary on
Diary on, with Google Translate

On this forum, you'll also find some baby pictures of Vinny. We'll post those snapshots on here as well, later on.

Take care, and see you in the next post!